NEW YORK: Israel’s war on Gaza is turning the Palestinian enclave into “a graveyard for children,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday.
He spoke as the number of Palestinians killed in a month of airstrikes and artillery bombardment passed 10,000, including more than 4,000 children.
Protection of civilians “must be paramount,” Guterres said. “We must act now to find a way out of this brutal, awful, agonizing dead end of destruction,” he said, and again called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
Israel has defied growing international demands for a ceasefire, and says hostages taken by Hamas militants during their attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 should be released first.
UN chiefs said the war must stop now. “An entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essentials for survival, bombed in their homes, shelters, hospitals and places of worship. This is unacceptable. We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now,” they said.
The 18 signatories to their statement included UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and UN aid chief Martin Griffiths.
An overnight bombardment of Gaza by air, ground and sea was one of the most intense since Israel began its offensive following the Oct. 7 attack in which Hamas killed 1,400 people and seized more than 240 hostages.
The Health Ministry in Gaza said dozens of people were killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City and further south in Gaza neighbourhoods such as Zawaida and Deir Al-Balah. Medical sources said at least 75 Palestinians were killed and 106 hurt in the attacks. Health officials said eight people were killed in an airstrike on the Rantissi cancer hospital in Gaza City.
People searched for victims or survivors at the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, where the health ministry said Israeli forces had killed at least 47 people in strikes on Sunday.
“All night I and the other men were trying to pick the dead from the rubble. We got children, dismembered, torn-apart flesh,” said Saeed al-Nejma, 53.
In a separate attack, 21 Palestinians from one family were killed in airstrikes, the Health Ministry said. Israel’s military said its strikes hit “tunnels, terrorists, military compounds, observation posts, and anti-tank missile launch posts.” Ground troops killed several Hamas fighters while taking a militant compound containing observation posts, training areas and underground tunnels, it said.
A US diplomatic push in the region is intended to reduce risks of the conflict escalating.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Ankara to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, whotold him that a ceasefire in Gaza needed to be declared urgently.